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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Bo Bower is the University of Iowa’s second-leading tackler this season. In 4 ½ years, he has tackled another objective: becoming a college graduate.
Bower, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound linebacker from West Branch, Iowa, will walk across a stage in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday morning to receive a diploma signifying his degree in geographic information sciences. He is not alone. Bower is one of 14 Hawkeye football players graduating Dec. 16.
“It was showing my parents I could graduate college, too,” Bower said. “They wanted me to get good grades and that carried over to college, making sure I got a degree and doing things to the best of my ability.”
Before Bower takes on the real world, he will take on Boston College in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27 in New York. Afterward, he will train in Iowa City and wait for Pro Day, the 2018 NFL Draft, and the possibility of continuing his playing career as a professional.
A former walk-on (he was put on scholarship before the 2014 season), Bower redshirted in 2013 before starting all 13 games in 2014 at outside linebacker. He made 38 tackles and was named honorable mention Freshman All-Big Ten by BTN.com.
Bower did not start as a sophomore, but saw action in all 14 games — intercepting a pass against North Texas and returning it 88 yards for a touchdown. A season later, he regained his starting position, playing all 13 games and making 91 tackles.
Two of his fondest memories happened inside Kinnick Stadium.
Bower made five tackles during Iowa’s 14-13 win over No. 2 Michigan on Nov. 12, 2016; he also had five tackles during Iowa’s 55-24 win over No. 3 Ohio State on Nov. 4, 2017. Both times fans stormed the field after time expired.
“Being in the locker room after games like Ohio State and Michigan are highlights,” Bower said. “Any game (our fans) swarmed the field is a great moment.”
Bower will experience another great moment Saturday. The venue will be Carver-Hawkeye Arena, not Kinnick Stadium. A cap and tassel will replace his helmet and facemask. His familiar No. 41 jersey will be replaced by a dark gown.
Student-athletes like Bower have thrived at the University of Iowa, thanks to facilities like the Gerdin Academic Learning Center and the staff within its walls. They also thrive because of a work ethic required to succeed as a Hawkeye football player.
“Everything I learned here will prepare me for the real world,” Bower said. “We’re up at 4:50 in the morning, you lift, and then have practice. Managing your time is the biggest thing — you have to manage being up that early and coming back for film and having a small window to study, do homework, and being able to get to bed early enough to get up and do it all over again.”
It has been a notable year for the Hawkeye football program on and off the field. Iowa finished with seven regular-season wins and will play in its fifth consecutive bowl game; not only will the Hawkeyes graduate 14 players, but 41 were named Academic All-Big Ten and two Academic All-America.
Now is the time when student-athletes can set textbooks down and dive into the playbook. They understand the importance of the postseason.
“We’re looking to win this game and go in there ready to prove something,” Bower said.